I still feel guilty about the fact that I will have to claim ESA and Housing Benefit for a while. I realise I am lucky to live somewhere that temporarily “signing on” is possible and hate the idea of taking advantage of that. But I have to accept that, for the time being, I am unfit to work. Social workers and doctors don’t write notes about unfitness for fun. I couldn’t cope with the M.A., a course of study in something that I really love. A full-time, full-on job could genuinely be dangerous for me. I remember Amsterdam, how the high let me whizz through data entry until the low made me late, drunk and self-injured every day before work. I know I wasn’t on medication back then, and that once things are stabilised properly I will be capable of working even full-time. For now, though, I don’t feel able.
Like so many people, I have to let myself learn that that’s okay. That to prioritise wellness over perceived usefulness is okay, that it is not normal to literally work yourself to death just to live up to expectations. Again, it all comes back to expectation and its weight. I know that through the year I tried to find work in Edinburgh I wasn’t really fit to, and that berating myself constantly wasn’t helping. I worked intermittently and between times sat staring into space, unable to do simpler things. My jobs were “easy”- mopping, sweeping, moving chairs- and I couldn’t do them. I was not unwilling but unable.
It would have made more sense to admit not defeat but the need for help, and try to get signed off. But They don’t make it easy. I was frightened and tired and unhappy and the forms daunted me to the point where I am still in debt for Council Tax I don’t think I really owe. I think so many people probbaly find themselves in this position and in much, much worse positions. The doctors who assess your fitness to work often contradict the opinion of psychiatrists and doctors who have known you a long time, assessed your needs more thoroughly and I don’t think that’s right. Of course I understand the need for regulations, the need for confirmation that a person is unwell… I do. But I also understand the need for help.
There we go, say it with me… I need help.